New middle school would cost about half of amount that was included on 2017 ballot

By Alex Johnson


After a failed referendum in 2017, the Burlington Area School District is gearing up for another attempt this November, asking district residents to vote on a $43.6 million package pending the board’s final approval on the official ballot resolution at a meeting on Monday.

The package is cited on the resolution as “for the public purpose of paying the cost of a school building and improvement program,” which includes construction of a new, sixth- through eighth-grade configuration middle school in place of Karcher Middle School, districtwide maintenance and repair at elementary schools and administrative buildings, in addition to safety and security improvements throughout the district.

Dyer Intermediate School will also be restructured as a kindergarten through fifth-grade building.

The tax impact for the package, should the community vote in favor of the referendum, is estimated at 33 cents on per $1,000 valuation, according to Lisa Voisin of Baird Financial.

“(To) put that into perspective,” Voisin said, “I’ve been through 72 referendums for Wisconsin school facilities and most of them fall under a $1 mill rate increase so you’re half of that. You’re under 50 cents”

According to Superintendent Peter Smet, the board will vote on two resolutions at their meeting, which is slated to begin at 6:30 p.m. at the school district office. The first resolution is to officially go to referendum in the Nov. 6 election, and the other is to accept the referendum question that voters will see on the ballot.

Moving forward, Smet said, the board will be out in the community to educate and inform voters on the decision they will be making for their school district.

“(The board) is going to educate voters as to what the information is and show the impact on the community. We will be doing an information campaign,” Smet said.

Part of the plan will be handing out informational materials, speaking to groups on the details of the referendum.

District Communications Coordinator Julie Thomas will also be delivering a communications plan at the Aug. 13 board meeting, sharing and strategizing with the board on how to best reach and engage the community.

In 2017, the board went to referendum with three separate questions asking for a new middle school and district-wide renovations with a price tag of $68.3 million; an $11.7 million gymnasium addition and athletic facilities add-ons; and a $14.4 million performing arts center. All three failed to pass.

“Last time, (the referendum) was three parts and the middle school was significantly more expensive,” Smet said.

He added that this year’s referendum is only one question and that the total cost for a new middle school is about half of what was presented during the 2017 referendum.